This is the final chapter...I hope you've enjoyed the sharing of a few key moments in Clarisse's life. Thank you to those who have left reviews - I appreciate your taking the time to do so! While we may write for ourselves and our muses...feedback is good for the soul as well; so thank you!!

Without further ado...


As we lay basking in the aftermath of our lovemaking, I felt the healing power of his love wash over me. In that moment, I made a decision: I would tell him the truth. My heart would break if he rejected me after learning what had happened those many years ago; but I consoled myself with the fact that at least once in my life, I had experienced what love was truly like.

My body was still half covering his and my head rested on his chest in the crook of his arm. I was grateful that I wouldn't have to look him in the eyes as I made my confession. I slowly released a deep breath and said quietly, "About forty years ago, the night of my eighteenth birthday celebration, I was abducted from my suite. When I awoke, I was tied to a bed and then raped."

His grip around me tightened and I held my breath waiting for his response. After what seemed like an eternity, he slowly sat up and pulled me in a tight embrace. "Oh my God, Clarisse; what a horrific experience!"

A few more moments passed as the enormity of what I had just told him seeped into his mind. "What did the King say when you told him?"

I adjusted myself enough in his tight embrace to lock eyes with him. "He said nothing…I never told him. I've never told another soul…until today."

His only response was to pull me back in his embrace and just hold me. After a few moments, he quietly asked, "Do you want to tell me about it?"

"Yes. I think I do." And so I recounted in as much detail as I could recall the nightmare that had haunted me for the greater part of my life. When I finished, I felt as though a burden had been lifted off of my shoulders. There was some truth to the old adage that a shared burden is much lighter.

Joseph lifted my chin to look him in the eyes again. "I'm so sorry, Clarisse. So sorry for what happened; so sorry that you carried this burden by yourself; just sorry."

I repeated his words from the previous evening as I stated calmly, "I don't want your pity, Joseph. I want justice. I want the man responsible, along with whomever his accomplices were, to be held accountable."

He smiled a bit at my response; not because what I said was funny, but rather because he loved it when I got fired up about something. "Do you know who is responsible?" He asked.

"Ironically, I didn't up until this morning. Perhaps the scene with you the night before and my subsequent nightmares opened a part of my memory or recognition and I realized to whom those evil eyes belonged."

"Just give me a name and I will see that this is handled – discreetly." He knew that after keeping my secret for over forty years, I would not want this made public knowledge.

I pulled him close and whispered the name of the person that had been my nemesis for as long as I could remember. His eyes widened at hearing the name and he asked, "You're sure?"

"Yes, I am."

"I'll be right back." With that, he walked over to phone and dialed the extension to the security office. I overheard him ask Shades to arrange the pickup of the man I had named and to detain him until he arrived. Once he was assured that this would be handled expediently and discreetly, he climbed back into bed. "As soon as Shades confirms that he has him in custody, I will handle the questioning. I promise you, Clarisse, I will make him pay for what he has done; and I will learn the names of his partners in crime."

A slight chill ran up my spine at the steel in his voice. I was comforted by the knowledge that Joseph always kept his promises and that soon a very ugly chapter in my life would be closed. I snuggled up against him as he pulled the blankets over our still nude bodies. "Thank you, Joseph…for everything."

Five days later, everything was ready. Joseph and I had spent the last few days making love. For the record, I learned quickly how to lead and was now very, very good at it. We had also spent a great deal of time talking about the past and planning how the coronation day would be handled.

We spoke of my fears regarding Pierre and the identity of his biological father. While I had always wanted to believe that he was Rupert's, my heart told me that no true child of mine and Rupert's would turn his back on his duty to the crown and Genovia. His heart had never seemed to be interested in anything to do with the monarchy or carrying on the proud tradition of the Renaldi name. Joseph assured me that he could learn the truth by checking the blood types. We both agreed that no matter what the results were, no one but the two of us would ever know.

"You look beautiful, your Majesty." Charlotte proclaimed, tears shining in her eyes.

I embraced the young woman, who was also my friend. "Thank you, Charlotte. Everything looks wonderful. You've done an excellent job, as always. Amelia is very blessed to have you. I am so glad you agreed to stay with us."

"There's no place else I could ever want to be." Charlotte offered seriously.

I smiled at her. "There is, however, some place I need to visit before we get started. You don't mind giving me a few minutes, do you?"

A concerned look crossed Charlotte's face. She never liked when plans did not go as she scheduled them or when things happened that she was unaware of. "Of course, your Majesty, whatever you wish."

"I won't be late; I promise. Don't let them start without me." I teased.

I walked into the throne room just a few minutes before Joseph was scheduled to arrive with our guest. I ran my hands lovingly over the hand carved wood of the throne. It had been such a big part of my life; no – it had been my whole life. I wasn't sure how I would feel now that caring for the thousands of people in my country would not be my sole responsibility. I knew there would be some adjustments; but thankfully I had Joseph. I knew without a doubt, that he would be enough.

As if on cue and reading my thoughts, he entered with the man at his side. Our guest looked tired and his eyes no longer held the sinister glint of my nightmares. They were dull and lifeless. I suppose that is what happens when a lifetime of wrong choices and using people for your own personal gain would garner a person. We all knew why he was here, so I skipped any preliminary speeches or conversation.

"I just have one question: Why?"

"Does it really matter now?" came the flat response.

I allowed my impulsive nature along with my rising anger to win over and I raised my hand and slapped him hard against his cheek. Joseph's eyes grew wide; but he made no move to stop me. "You bastard! Of course it matters. I was eighteen! You robbed me of my innocence at the tender age of eighteen. I think I deserve to know why." In truth, I already knew; but I wanted to afford him an opportunity to tell me in his own words. The desire of his employers to ensure there were no heirs to the throne chief amongst the reasons. Apparently they had seriously underestimated both mine and Rupert's willingness to fulfill our duty – at all costs. I was not surprised when he remained silent.

I moved very close to him so I could lower my voice. Although it was hushed, there was steel in it as I said, "I think you have a right to know…he is not yours." I lied.

That phrase got his attention and he looked somewhat shocked…the first emotion I had seen on his face since he walked in the room. I continued. "You're a smart man. Surely you did the math and wondered from time to time over the years if he was really YOUR son rather than your King's. Didn't you?"

He said nothing; but now seemed lost in the past. My next words brought him back to the future. Joseph placed the crown on my head and I spoke in my most authoritative voice. "As your Queen and ruling monarch, I forever banish you, Arthur Mabrey, from the country of Genovia. You are hereby stripped of your title of Viscount and you will be escorted out of the country first thing tomorrow morning. If you ever – EVER step foot on Genovian soil again, I will have you arrested for crimes against the crown and me personally. Is that understood?"

His head was already bowed and he quietly answered, "Yes, your Majesty."

OoOoOo

I watched with pride as Amelia took her oath and was proclaimed the new Queen of Genovia. My granddaughter was Queen and Joseph was my husband; life was very good. There was only one more matter to address. As people began to make their way to the Grand Ballroom, I asked Joseph. "Are you ready to finish this?"

He squeezed my arm. "I am; if you are."

I nodded and excused myself while Joseph took the final steps to bring my nightmare to an end. About fifteen minutes later, I had once again made my excuses to Charlotte and walked into the room where Joseph and the two people he had detained were present.

I smiled sweetly, looking both of them in the eye before I began. "I wanted to tell you, in person, that in exchange for a lifetime of banishment instead of a life sentence in a Puerto Rican prison; Arthur Mabrey has provided me with the names of those who hired him. That, of course, would be you."

I must be honest and admit that I enjoyed the look of shock and fear that crossed their faces. I'm sure they were certain that after all of these years, their crime had long since been forgotten. I continued. "I can understand your desire to secure the throne for your family and your willingness to make sacrifices and do whatever is necessary to achieve that. I understand because I, too, have made my sacrifices and taken action to preserve the Renaldi line. My willingness to do whatever it takes, however, did not include standing by idly listening to the screams of a young woman as she was violently robbed of her innocence. Nor have I ever ignored the pleas of someone begging for my help."

I took a deep breath and moved forward into their personal space. "You could have stopped it…at any time. You were only a few feet away. How could you just stand there and do nothing?"

The man finally spoke. "We did what was necessary."

I fought the urge to smack him. Instead I stood up straight, shoulders back and made the statement that would finish this. "So must I…do what is necessary. As my final act as the Queen of Genovia, I hereby forever banish you, Baron and Baroness Von Troken, from the country of Genovia and her allies. You will be escorted to your home by Captain Kelly. He will wait for you to gather whatever possessions you can carry with you; he will then escort you to the airport and accompany you to the destination of your choice. Of course, those destinations do not include any of our allied or neighboring countries. If you ever, EVER step foot on our soil again, I will have you arrested for treason and crimes against me personally."

Not being a very smart man, Baron Von Troken thought it wise to point out to me that I was no longer the Queen. My pleasant smile returned as I explained. "Actually, until my official seal is placed on the coronation documents, I am still the reigning monarch of this great country." I turned to Joseph and asked. "Joseph, have I placed my official seal on the coronation documents yet?"

He returned my smile. "Not yet, your Majesty. You did not want to keep the Baron and Baroness waiting so the necessary paperwork has yet to be completed."

I flashed a brilliant smile in their direction. "So you see, I am still the Queen; and possess all the powers afforded to her by this great nation."

His face was very pale as he whined. "But…this is our home."

"No longer – and never again." I was done with this conversation and I never wanted to lay eyes on either of them again. "Joseph…please have them escorted from the Palace and out of my sight!"

"With pleasure."

A few hours later, the celebration had ended and everyone had gone home. Joseph was seeing to the last minute details and was working with Shades for the "transfer of power" as Head of Security. I had spent some time with Amelia in her suite just talking…about life and love. I kissed her good night and told her how proud I was of the woman she had become and the Queen I knew she would be. I then excused myself and hastened back to my suite. I wanted to be ready for Joseph when he got "home".

I watched with glee as he stopped short in the bedroom, unable to take his eyes off of me. "To what do I owe this pleasant surprise?" He asked. His gaze fixed solidly on my body provocatively covered in black lace and satin.

"We are celebrating, my love; the close of one chapter and the start of a new one." I was half sitting on the edge of the bed and I beckoned him with my finger to join me. I offered him one of the glasses of champagne and toasted. "To our future."

He clinked my glass and replied. "To this moment."

We quickly emptied our glasses and I slowly unbuttoned his shirt. As I undid each button, I asked in my most seductive voice. "I'd like to test a theory of mine; but I need your cooperation. I want you to take control; lead our dance, if you will."

I pulled his body close to mine and kissed him before lowering myself onto the bed. He stood there for a moment looking down at my prone form. "Are you sure?"

My heart almost burst with love for the man standing over me. "I believe my fear is gone; the nightmare is over, Joseph. I have nothing left to be frightened of – except not knowing what it feels like to be completely covered in everything that is you, my love. I'd like to at least try…" I moved back some so I was now in the center of the bed and I waited as he decided on whether this was a prudent course of action.

Finally, he smiled and said, "Well, it's been a while since I've had to lead; but for you my love, I'm willing to try."

He climbed on to the bed and settled himself between my legs as he rained kisses all over my chest. I closed my eyes and focused on the sensations. There was no fear; no panic; nothing but the precious weight of my lover surrounding me. I smiled and lifted my face to the heavens breathing a short prayer of thanks and relief. I knew – in this defining moment – that Joseph and I would live…happily ever after.

The End!